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Broadway Market auction plan runs into objection by City Hall

The outgoing managers at the Broadway Market hope to auction off assets of the East Side landmark next week to help pay their bills, but city officials are considering fighting the plan in court.

Thursday's auction could be canceled if the city decides to buy items the Broadway Market Management Corp. claims it owns.

If not, people who want a slice of history from one of the nation's oldest continually operating markets will gather at the market to bid on everything from signs and snowblowers to awnings and cleaning equipment. Even the market's famous Easter Bunny hut is scheduled to be placed on the selling block.

The market remains open, but a management overhaul is in the works. The outgoing managers say they need to sell assets to pay creditors.

But the top attorney in City Hall said some items don't belong to the exiting managers. Corporation Counsel Alisa A. Lukasiewicz warned that legal action is "imminent."

"I am outraged," she said. "You can't pay your bills by selling assets that don't belong to you. We will do everything in our power to prevent such an event from occurring."

Some of the assets were likely purchased with government funds, Lukasiewicz said. For example, city officials are investigating whether federal grants were used for some market improvements.

Richard M. Fronczak , market executive director, said the dispute could be easily solved if City Hall decides to buy all the assets from the outgoing management team. He estimated the items to be auctioned are worth about $70,000.

Fronczak said the auction would be called off if the two sides could come to terms. Thus far, however, no agreement has been reached. What's more, the market's splashy announcement of the upcoming auction may have further strained already tense relationships between the city and exiting managers.

The not-for-profit group that has been running the East Side facility for two decades voted to dissolve effective Oct. 31. The decision came shortly after Mayor Byron W. Brown supported a push for a management overhaul launched by Common Council President David A. Franczyk.

Cash Cunningham of Cash Realty & Auctions will handle the upcoming sale.

Fronczak disputed city claims that managers plan to sell assets that rightfully belong to the city. He said no physical improvements that are part of the building's infrastructure will be sold, including lights and expansions of vendor stalls. But he said other items -- including signs and even the market's logo -- are owned by the management group.

"We own the trademark for the logo, and that's another issue that has to be resolved," he said. "Someone might be interested in buying the logo."

City officials are expected to appoint a temporary manager as they advertise for proposals to become the permanent operator. Council President Franczyk has also established a task force to make recommendations that could lead to a "radical reimagining" of a market that has been plagued by high vacancy rates and declining customer traffic.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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